WKU set for rematch against Florida International

Cole Claybourn

WKU simply couldn’t stop Florida International in the second half of their Dec. 31 game en route to an 81-63 blowout loss at home. 

At least that’s how Interim Head Coach Ray Harper put it.

After the Toppers trailed by just two at halftime, FIU guards Jeremy Allen and Phil Taylor combined for 31 second half points to put WKU away.

The Toppers (6-15, 2-6 Sun Belt Conference) will have to avoid allowing similar outbursts if they want to win Saturday, but must do it on the road.

“It’s one game at a time and we’re making the proper steps each time out, whether it be game, practice or whatever,” Harper said. “That’s kind of been our approach — ‘Let’s get better everyday.’ I think we are.”

Tipoff for Saturday’s contest is set for 6:30 p.m. CT.

The numbers are at least in WKU’s favor to an extent.

The Toppers are 10-3 all time against FIU in Miami and have won five of their last six games played in the state of Florida.

The last matchup was during a stretch run where WKU lost five out of six games by an average of 10.2 points before Ken McDonald was fired as head coach. 

Since Harper has taken over, while there isn’t much difference in the win column, WKU has notched one double-digit win and dropped two games by a combined three points.

To get over that hump, Harper said WKU will have to attack FIU’s zone defense, which he thought the Toppers did well the first time but just couldn’t convert.

“We missed some easy shots,” Harper said. “Second half we got stagnant and took some bad shots and bottom line we couldn’t get stops. Phil Taylor just — he killed us in the second half.

“They’re a very talented team and you know you’re gonna see zone for pretty much 40 minutes of the game and hopefully we attack it and not just settle for three-pointers and jump shots. Even though a team’s playing zone, you must get the ball inside.”

WKU will be trying to improve a couple of trends with a win on Saturday. The Toppers have lost 11 of their last 13 games not played in Diddle Arena and are just 1-6 in their last seven regular season games against Sun Belt East Division opponents.

“We’re still a young basketball team,” Harper said. “Young basketball teams on the road — you’ve got to really reinforce the need for attention to detail. We’re really focusing on that this week.”